Change the thought, ease the anxiety
By Dr. Renee Solomon
When considering anxiety, perception is reality. What we believe to be true becomes true, whether it’s true for someone else or not.
Saying, “There’s nothing to worry about,” does nothing to allay the anxious person’s anxiety, which can cause panic attacks, sleeplessness, inability to eat and the sensation of a constricting throat. Some anxiety sufferers experience racing, thudding pulses that make them fear a heart attack.
Some anxiety is severe enough to require medication. However, the physical symptom is often anxiety. When people understand they are not having a heart attack, they can move through their anxiety more quickly and easily.
Taking a talk therapy approach, I remind my clients that anxiety is temporary, like weather, and will pass. I also focus on “worrying about the worry.”
Many clients in my private practice and our treatment center are more concerned about being anxious in the situation than they are about the source of the anxiety itself. When we decrease the fear of being anxious in a situation, it cuts the anxiety dramatically. My treatment center has “distress tolerance” and cognitive behavioral groups that help clients learn to tolerate anxiety and uncomfortable emotions.
I teach clients a cognitive “bag of tricks” to address their “worrying about worrying.” One trick is to have them think about five reasons why their anxiety is false. If someone is worried about failing a test, for example, I will have him list five reasons that this is not accurate, e.g.,
he studied, or he never failed a test before or he paid attention in class.
When we challenge ourselves to think in different ways, it changes brain chemistry and shifts our default thinking pattern from anxious to positive.
If the test taker, for example, is forced to think of his anxiety differently, he will have less anxiety in his future thoughts.
Many addicts in our treatment center report that they use drugs to rid themselves of their anxious feelings, even if they don’t classify the feelings as such. If, through therapy sessions, groups and support, we can help addicts create new ways of thinking and understand that their anxiety is temporary, we can help them move toward kicking drugs.
If you or a loved one needs help finding treatment for drugs and alcohol, please contact us (866) 459-3922.